After months of heightened anticipation, Ed Sheeran finally brought his world tour to Australia this month, and things went as well as expected.
The singer should always have expected a hero’s welcome when he got here – when Sheeran’s most recent album, =, topped the ARIA Album Chart last year, it incredibly became his fifth consecutive chart-topping record in Australia – but perhaps even he was taken aback at just how much the country took to this tour.
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The singer filled the MCG last Thursday, March 2nd, with 105,000 fans watching on, a new national record for a ticketed concert. The following day, he set the record straight once more with 109,500 fans filing through the gates. It’s unlikely that those records will be broken anytime soon (perhaps when Sheeran next returns to the country for another tour).
Selling out stadiums across the globe and having sold more live tickets in Australia and New Zealand than any other artist, Sheeran has proven himself as an artist you need to see live at least once in your life.
To celebrate the end of Sheeran’s Down Under sojourn, we thought we’d take a look at some of his finest songs – it was a difficult task narrowing it down to just 7.
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A recent hit, the lead single from = signalled a new sonic direction for Sheeran. Sultry and atmospheric, it could have easily belonged on an album by The Weeknd. ‘Bad Habits’ emphasised the chameleonic ability of Sheeran: effortlessly able to slip into dance-pop at a moment’s notice. It also happened to go 6X platinum in Australia, becoming his sixth number one single in the country in the process.
‘The Joker and the Queen’ (ft. Taylor Swift)
Much has been made of Sheeran and Taylor Swift’s relationship but their musical chemistry is undeniable. The duo’s fourth collaboration is a soothing piano ballad that combines their tender vocals to wonderful effect. The harmonies are slight but meaningful, the strings swooning and luscious. Two of the most overtly romantic singer-songwriters of the last decade were always going to make one supremely heartfelt ode to love.
‘Thinking Out Loud’
Amidst his colossal success, it’s often forgotten just how pure a vocalist Sheeran is. It’s never more evident than in ‘Thinking Out Loud’: on what he called a “walking down the aisle song”, Sheeran sounds like he’s meaning every crisply-sung lyric. It’s sappy, certainly, but he’s always really been a blue-eyed soul crooner deep down.
It just had to be included. This is all you need to know about Sheeran affection for the late Gudinski: in the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2021, he rushed over from England to Melbourne to ensure he was at the Aussie icon’s memorial. ‘Visiting Hours’ was incredibly written during his two weeks of mandatory quarantine and raw emotion pours out from every line.
“I wish that Heaven had visiting hours / So I could just show up and bring the news / That she’s getting older and I wish that you’d met her / The things that she’ll learn from me, I got them all from you,” he sings about his daughter Lyra, forever wishing that she’d gotten the chance to meet a man that meant so much to her father. Pure soul-crushing emotion.
‘Shape of You’
It’s an obvious one but it’s obvious for a reason. Commercial success doesn’t make a song good but Shape of You’s figures are ridiculous: it was the most-streamed song of the decade on Spotify (2.4 billion streams by December 2019), and was named the number one song on the Billboard Mainstream Top 40 chart of the same decade.
Cleverly interpolating the utter classic ‘No Scrubs’ by TLC, it’s a slinking track largely indebted to dancehall and tropical house without ever becoming a parody of those genres. The percussive is breezy and achingly cool, Sheeran showcasing a deft nimbleness in production that allows his earnest vocals to dominate. The sound of thousands of drunken club singalongs.
‘The A Team’
The song that started it all. Sheeran’s first solo single was one of the most remarkable debuts by a British artist in years, a folk ballad about a sex worker struggling with substance abuse. Sheeran’s perceptive songwriting was already mature beyond his years back in 2011, and the song is sincere without ever becoming too over sentimental. It’s a balance that many musicians struggle with but Sheeran managed to strike it on his first try. There’s a reason it received a Grammy nomination for Song of the Year.